Be the 1% to Change the World
Year 7, Week 8

Holger Peters had the podium: "I think this is about the tenth or twelfth time I've had the privilege of giving this speech. When we wrote our first TDG constitution, the inventor of the TDG suggested that we include a clause about the importance of voting for good character and capacity for governance before voting. So we took his suggestion, and we let the chair of our TDG give a little speech about voting in this way.


"When we put this clause into our constitution, we didn't really understand why. And we treated this clause mostly as a formality. And sometimes as an annoyance."


I was sitting in the middle of about 35 people looking towards Holger. As the crowd chuckled at Holger's little joke, I could not help but think I should not be at this meeting.


Holger continued: "Good character and capacity for governance!. . . . . Such a simple platitude. It should be common sense that this is how we should vote. Yet when we look at USA's current democracy, we voters cast our votes with different criteria: tradition, ideology, self-interest, sketchy perspectives from the mass media, and clever marketing from the campaign machines.


I nodded my head in response to Holger's remark and thought back to my first TDG meeting with Holger. Seven years ago!


I then recalled seven months ago when I got married to Joshua Jerimiah. We bought a small house in Waskeda, in Northeast Riverbend. I didn't know any neighbors very well, let alone which neighbors were members of the TDG. I hadn't built much rapport to be elected as Waskeda's neighborhood representative. The current representative seemed quite capable. I wasn't expecting to be elected. I was even looking forward to the extra time I could put into my accounting diploma.


Holger went on: "So I have been making this little speech every six months. And the strange thing is during these seven years being on the executive committee, I have found myself usually working with some great people......  Now I don't mean ‘great' in terms of wealth, fame, or accomplishments. Just ordinary people with the simple goal of making this TDG work. This finding of great people shows our electoral processes are working."


Despite being a new person in Waskeda, I got elected as its neighborhood representative in Riverbend's TDG. I guess my previous TDG work counted for something in these voters' minds. Maybe that voting criteria was why I am here today.


"So this little semi-annual message of ‘good character and capacity for governance' has been slowly changing our mindset about voting. I think I am understanding this aspect of the TDG better than I did seven years ago. Let me just point out how this works so well. Tonight is the election of our TDG executive committee, where we 34 neighborhood representatives will elect seven people, from amongst ourselves, to manage our TDG. Ed Broncher told me that 31 of those representatives have already picked up their ballot. Thirty-one out of 34!"


I was one of the 31! I could see TDG people I had worked with over the years: Veronica Sanchez, Lenora Crane, Ed Broncher. One surprise in that 31 was Betty Boychuk. Her husband, Aiden, served his neighborhood very well for the past four years. For some reason, Betty got more votes than Aiden this time. I know Betty; she will also serve her neighborhood well.


Holger moved on: "I'm not a math teacher, but I calculate we have a 91% turnout tonight! . . . . Let's just understand the significance. First let's give credit to all of you who made this meeting a high priority. There are so many other things we busy people could be doing tonight."


I had a conflict tonight. There was also a meeting of the Battenor Ecological Society. There was no question which meeting I was going to go to.


Holger broke my thoughts again: "Second, let's give credit to the people who voted for you—your neighbors. They seemed to have known you would take your TDG responsibility seriously enough to show up here tonight. That . . . ladies and gentlemen . . . is a sign that the voting process for our TDG is already working well. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am very impressed with this turnout—and how wise the voters are.
"So—once again—I am reminding everyone to vote for good character and capacity for governance to create next year's executive committee.. . . .  And with that statement, I have just fulfilled our constitutional requirement."


Holger took a step back from the podium, then returned.
"It has been an honor to start, build, and serve on this TDG. And I have a little favor to ask all of you tonight.

"The executive committee needs all seven members giving a good effort. . . ..I will be going through a medical challenge in the next few months. My ability to serve on the executive committee will be limited. And I would prefer not to have that level of TDG service be placed on me at this time. I would prefer that you not vote for me tonight. Thank you very much for allowing me to serve in the past seven years."

Holger stepped back. His announcement cast a somber mood into our meeting. Ed Broncher was not prepared for Holger's message and had the difficult task of moving the meeting towards the actual voting. He stumbled through acknowledging Holger's work and wishing him well.

Then Ed moved to voting instructions. He summarized: 1) Each ballot had a place for five names, 2) Each neighborhood representative was to put up to five names in those spots. 3) Only the 34 neighborhood representatives could be voted for.

Ed pointed to four tellers at a table ready to accept and count votes.

For the past four years, I have served as treasurer of this TDG. I knew many people at this meeting. They may not know enough about my good character, but I think my "capacity for governance" has been well proven. I was expecting to be elected again. But it would have been nice to take a break.

The tellers counted the votes. All five sectors—Northwest, Northeast, Central, Southwest, and Southeast—would each send one representative from that sector into the executive committee, based on the vote count. After these five representatives were determined, two other representatives were also elected, based on the remaining representatives who had the most votes.

And I was elected again—as one of the two. The TDG has its ways.

Holger Peters still got a few votes, but not enough to place him on the executive committee. I think he was happy with that result, and he was happy to be here. He chatted with quite a few people, and I managed to get a few minutes with him. He didn't say much about his medical condition. Seven years. The last of our four founding executive members has left.

 


My father is Marvin Delgers. He grew up in a poor black neighborhood in Chicago. He took his schooling seriously and somehow managed to break the bonds of poverty. He graduated from law school and married my mother shortly after. They wanted to raise a family away from the big city life. They moved to Riverbend, where my father articled for a local law firm. He eventually set up his own practice of small town law, ranging from small criminal and civil cases, real estate transactions, wills and estates, and small business affairs. He liked this legal variety.

My mother is Willimena Delgers (nee Green). She was raised in middle-class Joosemin, in one of only a few African-American families in her neighborhood. Her parents put a high value on education and personal achievement for their children. She finished her nursing diploma. When she met my father, she had found a winner as her life partner. She has worked at the Riverbend General Hospital as a ward nurse ever since, pausing only to raise her young babies.

I was the oldest of three sisters. Georgina was four years younger. Abby was six years younger.

We were an upper-middle class family in Riverbend. We never lacked for material needs or parental attention.

We were also prominent, in part, because we were African Americans and somewhat wealthy. Perhaps a more important reason for our prominence is both my father and mother were quite active in the Democratic Party. They had served on many Democrat associations over the years and helped organize election campaigns. A significant part of my father's business came from his contacts in the Democratic Party.

We regularly attended church. But religion was seldom mentioned in our regular family discourse.  Maybe our church-going did some good. I don't know.  

Both my father and mother experienced racism in Riverbend. More than once, my father met a white man who needed a lawyer but did not want a black man to represent him. My father only grinned when such a man left his office. Every couple of years, my father got pulled over by police for "driving while being black.' His car was working properly; he had his paperwork in order; he was polite. But he also had a legal plan if the police ever took things further. They never did.

My mother was more proactive with racism. When she experienced racism at work, she cleverly documented the incident and found people to collaborate with her. Patients who took their racism a little too far got some admonishment from the hospital administrator. And two working colleagues were fired. But most people in Riverbend treated my father and mother with respect.

As far as race demographics, Riverbend was a pretty good representation of the USA. We had about 10% African-Americans, 10% Latin, and 5% immigrants from Africa who had come to work for Riverbend's small factories. There were a few people from the Tankosin Indian Reservation living in Riverbend. And a few Asians. For the most part, the various groups got along fairly well. I did experience some prejudice, but those few rascist white people generally stayed in their own clique and knew better than to take it too far. I think it helped that we had only one big high school in Riverbend—and the principal was a practitioner of racial equality.  


For a more comfortable read, "Confessions of a Future Politician" is available in e-book format from Kindle and Kobo for about $3.